A shot in the arm: White Sox minor leaguer Kodi Medeiros in ‘best spot’ during pandemic

  • Birmingham Barons photo With the minor league baseball season canceled because of COVID-19, Waiakea grad Kodi Medeiros was invited to Chicago to work out with the White Sox’ taxi squad. “It’s like spring training,” said Medeiros, who pitched with Double-A Birmingham in 2019.

It has not been a smooth ride for Hilo’s Kodi Medeiros as he climbs the minor league ladder to the Chicago White Sox.

But at least the left-handed pitcher is in a good spot, working with the team’s taxi squad at Boomers Stadium, a 30-minute drive from Chicago’s big league stadium, Guaranteed Rate Field.

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“It’s different for sure,” he said. “We get tested for COVID Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. We get a temperature check every day before we enter the facility. Then the doctor checks us in and gives us a mask to wear.”

The good news is none of the players or staff, about 40 in all, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Medeiros flew up to Chicago about two weeks ago and has already familiarized himself with his new routine.

“Every day in the morning we practice. It’s like spring training,” he said from his hotel room in Chicago. “I get up at 7, get to the field and eat breakfast. At 10:45, we’re doing pitching work, shag batting practice and have simulated games. It’s live at-bats for the hitters.”

Medeiros, 24, is practicing with some of Chicago’s top prospects, including left-hander Garrett Crochet, a 2020 first-round pick out of Tennessee, and first baseman Andrew Vaughn, the team’s No. 1 prospect.

“Garrett throws up to 100 mph. It’s pretty ridiculous,” Medeiros said. “We’ve got a lot of good hitters. You see a homer hit every single day. It’s good to see both ends, good hitting and good pitching.”

Last season, Medeiros struggled during his second consecutive season at Double-A ball. He was 4-8 with a 5.10 ERA in 83 innings. He struck out 75 but walked 51.

He felt like he got into a nice groove during spring training. Then the pandemic hit, and he was sent home.

“As far as spring training until now, I feel I got better,” he said. “Last season, I struggled. I went from a starter to a reliever and didn’t have good velocity. My changeup was a big key to my success in 2018.

“Out of the bullpen vs. being a big league starter, you have to be a lot more developed and throw at least six innings. I’ve been sitting 92-94 mph and topping at 96. It’s nice to put in the work in the offseason and see it come through after a tough year.”

Still, Medeiros was a first-round pick by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2014 out of Waiakea High School. He’s an investment in an organization loaded with pitchers. On mlb.com’s top 30 prospects list, 14 are pitchers.

He had no idea what the White Sox were planning for him until he got a phone call from Everett Teaford, the pitching coordinator.

“Before I got here, he’d check in every couple of weeks. Then I never heard from him,” Medeiros said. “In August, he asked how I was feeling. I told him I was feeling good. He booked a flight for me, and the next day I left.”

Medeiros has been influenced by left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer, who talked about throwing two-seam fastballs into right-handed batters.

“The Brewers wanted me to throw the four-seam fastball,” he said. “But I’ve gone back to the two-seam fastball again and being more consistent with it. Aaron talked about attacking away with breaking balls, going backdoor. It was really cool to talk with someone who has success and is at the younger end.”

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Chicago is a flexible organization, giving the players winter ball options. Last year, Medeiros declined an offseason assignment and worked out at home. There’s no place like home. But he’s a doorstep away from the big leagues.

“This is the best spot to be I could be for this year,” he said. “It’s a good spot, and grateful for it.”